Miss Piggy has always been an icon for the bold, outlandish and unconventional – so it came as no surprise when her creator revealed she had a somewhat troubled past, says Emily Reynolds
News this week suggests that everyone’s favourite porcine feminist has more of a troubled past than we may have first assumed.
Frank Oz, voice actor and puppeteer for many of the most iconic Muppets characters, revealed to Vanity Fair that Miss Piggy is a “damaged person”.
“[The backstory] is very elaborate,” he explained. “I have to take it seriously, because if it was funny, it wouldn’t be funny.
“I have to be serious, because whatever damage she has in her life, and whatever inconsistencies, whatever insecurities, whatever lack of talent, she desperately does not want to be that person,” he says.
“She came from a farm, and she had to leave home because her father died in a tractor accident. And as her mother was alone and Piggy grew up, it was fine. But then, as she got older, these suitors who came for her mother paid more attention to Piggy, and there was tremendous tension. Finally, Piggy just had to leave and go it alone.
“She didn’t have anything, really, so, like many single women, she had to take care of herself.”
To me, Miss Piggy’s backstory came as no surprise – because, as a somewhat unconventional woman myself, I’ve identified with her for years.
I’ve even joked that Miss Piggy shares many traits with those, like myself, who have borderline personality disorder (BPD). She has unstable relationships, is terrified of abandonment, experiences emotional instability, and sometimes behaves in a volatile, impulsive way, for example – four traits used to diagnose BPD. And doesn’t her on/off relationship with Kermit defy all expectations for a standard, heteronormative relationship?
She was a feminist before it was cool, too – she was the first woman to declare her intentions to run for president, she wrote self-help books aimed at women, and in more recent years she even told Stylist.co.uk that she opposed the gender pay gap. Her somewhat troubling back story only adds to this mystique for me.
My friend Sarah-Louise agrees. She believes that Miss Piggy is “everything victims never have the opportunity to be presented as”.
“Miss Piggy has always been headstrong, confident and unabashed,” she tells me. “Her tragic back story wasn’t a cheap ‘explanation’ for her personality, it was almost an aside.
“It’s empowering to say the least.”
Another friend, Tilly, tells me that she loves Miss Piggy because “she gives no s**ts, she knows what she wants, and she can defend herself with karate. Also, she’s a glamorous pig.
“Her traumatic childhood and bad experiences as a young pig have definitely influenced her personality and interpersonal relationships,” she adds. “It’s basically a biography of me, minus the karate.”
But for me, it does the opposite. Many women live with trauma, with pain, or with troubled back stories. And while these bad experiences don’t have to define our lives, they do undoubtedly change them.
I’m obviously well aware that Miss Piggy is a fictional pig made of felt. But the fact that a character so headstrong, brave, funny and absurd is allowed to thrive with such a tragic backstory means a lot to me. Why can’t women (or pigs) be fully realised versions of themselves and have troubled pasts? Why can’t we go through hell and still like ourselves at the end of it? And why should we be defined by other people’s responses to our difficult pasts?
Or, in the words of Miss Piggy herself: “I don’t care what you think of me, unless you think I’m awesome. In which case, you are right.”
Images: Getty Images